Enough of Too Much: Breaking the Addition of Overwork

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As we continue to emerge from the worst economy in nearly a century, an interesting by-product is making itself known within the workforce.

Prior to the “big drop,” our work cultures were driven by an addiction to overwork.  As the economic vice tightened, so did the stomachs and shoulders of the remaining workers, who were stuck working even crazier hours with their only incentive being that they were still employed.

Author of the book, “Whole Life Economics”, Barbara Brandt noted,

“We live in an addictive culture, so it is hard to say ‘no.’ We have to say ‘yes’ to be addicted to consumption. There is a feeling that ‘I am an American, so I can do anything.’ Realistically, people don’t know how to set limits and boundaries. This is exacerbated by the New Age belief that you can create your own reality. We’ve been trained culturally to feel guilty if we say ‘no’ to our paid work.

Downsizing has created speed ups (a faster pace of work and life), longer hours, or both. Because this country is economically addicted, we think anything that enables people to make money is good. Therefore, if an employer has to overwork you to make a profit, that is considered valid because we look at the money, not at people’s quality of life.”

But a funny thing is happening now in the aftermath of economic collapse.

People are rebelling against the culture of overwork. Slowly but surely, the power is shifting back to the employee. No longer does the adage, “just be happy you have a job,” ring true for the workforce anymore.

I had a deep conversation with a very good friend from a recovering Fortune 500 company. She told me that the people that remained employed through the tough times are now pushing back on their employer; refusing to shoulder the burden of overwork that they have carried for so long.

Can you blame them?

For too long, employers have used market instability to coerce their workforces to continue to produce with less support and resources. Their reward was the same paycheck they were getting in better days. In the dark days of 2009 and 2010, that was enough. But in the early part of 2011, these motivators are beginning to lose their luster.

I have a feeling that employers are going to have to take these things into consideration if they want to attract the best and brightest into their organizations moving forward.

Maybe the crash has broken our addition to overwork — or at least led us to reconsider the teetering sides of our work/life balance.

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